As we hear our Lord say at Holy Mass today, we pray, we fast, and we give alms in order to cultivate our friendship with our heavenly Father. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are works of piety. To pray, to fast, or to give alms means seeking a goal, exercising a means to an end. The end: union with God.
I daresay it’s possible that some of us neglect to fast. In other words, we forget that being friends with God requires that we deliberately deny ourselves certain pleasures that we would like to have.
God is infinitely loving and kind, infinitely patient and generous. Does that mean, though, that He is anything less than the most demanding friend a person could ever have?
No. Jesus, as a friend, makes extreme demands. Think of what He demanded of His mother. The indescribably agonizing fast that she had to keep on Good Friday.
She had to fast from sleep, from food, from any comfort. She had to fast from feeling at all at-home in this world. She had to fast from anything making any sense at all. Then she had to fast from the only light that gave her any real joy, when her Son closed His eyes, and she could have no human expectation that He would ever open them again.
God seeks our friendship–each of us–with the same relentless, indomitably demanding zeal. He wants to be as close to us as He was and is to the Blessed Virgin.
His friendship requires that we recognize our earthly pilgrimage for what it is: One long fast from the only thing that will really make us happy, which is the light of His eyes. The only true joy for the human race is the joy of the Blessed Virgin, which she found in the face of Christ. We will find that joy, too–by keeping the fast that she kept.
We could have no hope of keeping this fast faithfully—no hope of keeping the cold, dry vigil of the friends of God. But the Lord feeds us with His divine flesh and blood in the meantime, in the mysterious feast of faith which He gave us.
He knows how demanding He is. To obey Him means finding ourselves desperately, almost hopelessly, hungry for satisfactions which we cannot have now. So He feeds us with faith, se we can keep going.
And the feast that ends the fast is not as far away as it sometimes seems. On Good Friday afternoon, the Blessed Virgin’s fast seemed like it would last forever. But it actually only lasted until Sunday morning.